Members of the Whitehall-Yearling girls basketball team sat quietly on the bench as Lakewood players accepted their awards for winning the program’s first district title.
The Lancers pulled away in the closing minutes to beat Whitehall 60-47 in a Division II district final Feb. 27 at Ohio Dominican.
Whitehall coach Quentin Taylor, who completed his first season, said the postgame ceremony will serve as motivation for his underclassmen.
“The underclassmen are going to use this as fuel for the fire,” said Taylor, who was named Coach of the Year in the district and the MSL-Ohio Division. “The underclassmen are going to be back here next year.”
Lakewood was playing in its fourth district final in five seasons, while the Rams were making their first appearance since the 1992-93 season after capturing their first outright league title since the 1981-82 season.
Whitehall finished 20-6 overall and went 13-1 in the MSL-Ohio, finishing one game ahead of Worthington Christian (12-2).
Sophomore forward Alexia Mobley led the Rams with 18 points against Lakewood. Junior forward Jewel Watkins had 15 points, and senior guard Kiara Bagley added 11.
Bagley closed out a four-year career that included being part of a team that finished 1-22 in her sophomore season.
“It’s sad because we didn’t win the district like we wanted to, but coming from 1-22 and not being known at all to now people know Whitehall, it’s a big accomplishment,” said Bagley, who was one of seven seniors. “I’m proud of all my girls.”
Freshman Ella Wigal scored 21 points to lead Lakewood, which took advantage of nine 3-pointers and solid free-throw shooting (17-for-22) on its way to the win.
The Rams, who defeated Lakewood 67-62 on Nov. 26, were just 10-for-21 from the free-throw line and finished with three 3s.
Mobley, a 6-foot-2 Louisville recruit who was named district and MSL-Ohio Player of the Year, averaged a team-high 18 points, 19.1 rebounds and three blocks while playing in 21 of 26 games. She finished the year with 402 rebounds to establish a single-season program record.
Mobley had a single-game program record 29 rebounds in a 54-36 win over Licking Valley on Feb. 21 in the second round of the district tournament.
“I am very grateful to have received the awards, but the greatest thing that happened was the relationships I have built with my teammates this season,” she said. “They have become sisters to me and I’m just very thankful.”
Bagley averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Watkins also averaged 13 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Senior guard Kari Gullick and sophomore guard Brooklynn Greer were second-team all-league, and senior guard Sahlena Harvey was honorable mention all-league.
“This is my first senior class and these seniors have experienced a stage that they have never experienced before and some of them won’t do it again,” Taylor said. “I told them not to hang their heads because they made history in the school, they changed the community and bought into sisterhood and changed each other’s lives. The seniors have to go out with their heads high.”
Others eligible to return are junior guard Ry’Yair Smith and sophomore forward Kayla Bagley.
“It was a tough one,” Taylor said of the district final. “I’m going to take some days off to relax and then get back to it. The season will be here before I know it. I’m happy for what the girls have accomplished in a short time.”
Boys squad earns road win
The boys basketball team opened the Division I district tournament with a 65-51 win at 14th-seeded Canal Winchester on Feb. 28 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Kei’Von Wiggins led the 22nd-seeded Rams with 18 points.
“We stayed connected to our game plan,” he said. “We had to be more aggressive than usual on defense. It was a great win.”
Charles Miller had 12 points and Teddy Brown, Amir Dallas and Josiah Mobley each added 10.
The Rams were 15-8 before playing top-seeded Gahanna in a semifinal March 4. They lost to the Lions 55-44 on Dec. 31 at home.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Walnut Ridge or 17th-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district final Saturday, March 7, at Ohio Dominican, and the district champion plays Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Bradley, Newark or Westerville South in a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 11, at Ohio Dominican.